Be a Patriot

24 May

Before you head off to celebrate the (un)official “Start of Summer” this weekend, please consider paying special tribute –in the form of a meaningful contribution– to our U.S. servicemembers. They’ve given life and limbs and loyalty so that you can enjoy a sacrifice-free 3-day holiday. Maybe ya oughta give just a little something back to them…

Below you’ll find an UPDATED list of my Top-10 Veterans-Focused Nonprofits, presented in the following manner

Name (location), website + reason they rock.

These are listed alphabetically because I believe the organizations are of equal excellence, differing only in their mission. I hope that one (or more) of them speaks to you in a way that calls you to open your heart and, more importantly, your wallet.

1. Fisher House (20 states, DC & Germany) — Think “Ronald McDonald House,” but for Veterans’ hospitals rather than children’s wards. There’s a Fisher House at every major U.S. military hospital, enabling family members to be close to their warrior/veteran during a hospitalization for any unexpected illness, disease, or injury.

2. Mind-Fitness Training Institute (Based in VA, but serving across the country) — — My former pro bono client takes the principles of Buddhism, yoga, and other mindfulness practices and adapts them to the military environment. MFTI’s techniques help pre-deployment troops become more resilient and better able to adapt, learn, and succeed in stressful operational environments.

3. National Veterans Legal Services Project (Based in DC with nationwide operations) — Sometimes also called “Lawyers Serving Warriors,” this group fights legal battles for our vets. NVLSP further leverages its resources via a veritable brigade of pro bono attorneys who take on individual disability cases as well as system-changing litigation and advocacy.

4. New Directions (Los Angeles) — A remarkable re-intigration program for L.A.-area vets (men and women, young and old) who struggle with addiction and homelessness. Up until my recent retirement, I spent one evening each month for 7+ years supervising volunteer attorneys who helped tackle a wide range of legal issues for New Directions’ residents. I’m thrilled that my former law firm continues this project in the wake of my departure and I love hearing the ongoing success stories about the program.

And of course New Directions continues to hold a special place in my heart for gifting this awesome Honor Guard helmet to me:

ND Helmet

5. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (nationwide) — Specifically focused on our newest generation of veterans, this “21st Century” organization stands with our 2.4 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. IAVA provides support from their first day home through the rest of their lives, with a special emphasis on Health, Education, Employment and building a lasting Community for both the vets and their families.

6. Operation Homefront (Headquartered in TX, with operations in 43 states) — –This organization provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors. The concept is that by taking care of things at home, our troops can take better care of business out in the field (or in their recovery units).

7. Puppies Behind Bars (NY, NJ, and CT) — This organization hits a trifecta of awesomeness by training prison inmates to raise service dogs for wounded veterans. Dogs win. Inmates win. Wounded veterans win. This may not be a “100% official veterans’ organization,” but I think it’s FULL OF WIN and totally worthy of a shout-out here.

8. Ride2Recovery (based in CA, with chapters at more than 2-dozen VA/WTU sites across the country) — OK, I lied. This one actually is my favorite! R2R combines two of my favorite things: Cycling and serving veterans. What’s not to love?!?Thanks to modified equipment and training, vets with missing limbs and traumatic brain injuries can experience the enormous physical and mental health benefits of cycling.  I’ll be riding ~600 miles with these guys (and gals!) this summer. We’ll tackle great swaths of Northern Italy + the alps region of France — specifically, Alpe d’Huez.

To metaphorically “join” me on this adventure, just CLICK HERE and enter my full name (CRISTIN ZEISLER) in the Google Checkout field or include my name in the “Notes” section if you choose to use PayPal or Network for Good.

R2R Belgium

It would be great to have you on my Support Team!

9. SWAN (Service Women’s Active Network) (Nationwide) — The name pretty much says it all. SWAN supports servicewomen and women veterans of all eras, through groundbreaking advocacy initiatives and innovative, healing community programs. Among their significant programs is the work they do with military sexual trauma (MST) survivors. The military’s own data indicate that more than 1/3 of servicewomen experience MST. SWAN provides support, counseling and legal referrals along with holistic healing programs. MST is an abomination that SWAN is working hard to eliminate.

10. The USO (international) — The USO has been around since 1941. Its mission, “to provide morale, welfare and recreation-type services to service members and their families,” has endured, but I’ve seen first-hand that the USO is no longer “your grandpa’s” organization. Of course, it still serves and loves your grandpa and your grandpa (if he’s a veteran) probably loves the USO right back. Still, today’s USO is not at all what you might expect. It’s pretty darn hip these days AND it’s also exceptionally kid-friendly!

So. That’s it.

Our troops give their all for us, it would be great if each of my blog followers could devote some cash or time to one or more of these organizations to help restore strength and souls and dignity for our service members and veterans.

Thanks for reading.  I’m happy to answer any questions.

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